A Little Survivor Moves On

Spring brought forth a natural rock concert in all its glory. The sparrow family looked smug over its fledged brood, while the pigeon family was having a tough time with their extra rebellious nestling. But, that morning it was calmer than usual and I was so preoccupied rushing to a prior commitment that it didn’t occur to me to check the origin of that strange sound.

I came back home to witness my mom going hysterical, after much persuasion she calmed down and pointed towards a spot underneath the dense guava tree. My mum never risked venturing too deep into the garden, for she still remembered the foot long reptile she had encountered last fall.
I took a torch, put on my boots and went to investigate. I came back with a squirrel ‘kit’, who was barely 14-15 days old and his breathing was ragged. We all prayed.

The naming ceremony for our little survivor was duly held the next morning. My father named it ‘Gillu’ in remembrance of one of his favorite writers, my mother was too afraid to volunteer to even hold it, lest the tiny creature slipped through her fingers. I named it ‘Mushi’ after my favorite manga.

Feeding Mushi became one of the many tedious jobs, bottles of different sizes were arranged and finally an eye dropper was sanitized, and accepted by the already demanding Mushi. I had a crash course in ‘motherly worries 101’ and my mother had her chuckles watching me fret over him. Then on one glorious Sunday morning, Mushi opened one of his eyes. He pranced around like a pirate for two days and then his second eye opened. Those liquid eyes soon started recognizing movements and in a matter of few days Mushi’s signature stripes started to show.

By this time, not only Mushi had changed his appearance, but he had also changed us. I caught my dad trying to spoil him with cookies, cashews, raisins and figs (which were his favorite) and spoil Mushi he did. Mushi followed him around, pausing to catch a breath and when he got too tired, he would simply hop onto his slipper and let my dad carry him around. My mom was still a bit hesitant and finding herself in Mushi’s trajectory didn’t help either. She would often get surprised by a tiny ball of fluff trying to use her ‘pallu’ for climbing lessons.

Mushi was also very particular about its belongings. One day a rat chanced upon his bottle and chewed it down to bits, and Mushi in retaliation refused to be fed from any other bottle. It was acceptable to go hungry one night than accept a replacement. Mushi also found it difficult to sleep without a bed-sheet, he would stay awake waiting for one and would nip the finger of the first unsuspecting person next morning, in disdain. He liked the blanket my mom knitted him (she was finally starting to come around) and knew how to tuck himself in. And then one night Mushi didn’t come back from his daily garden excursions.
I looked about everywhere till the wee hours, but couldn’t find him. Fearing the worst I came back to sleep with a heavy heart and a lump in my throat. By the next morning, I had lost all hope of seeing Mushi ever again and finally started gathering his things for burial. But, there he was galloping back to the house, up my jeans and onto my shoulder. He had survived his first night outside and he seemed very enthusiastic about it too. Whatever adventure his excited chittering couldn’t communicate, the mangle of spider webs about him filled in.

Slowly, his appearances above the fridge, outside the kitchen, on our curtains became rare and his social circle in the garden grew manifold. We still see him around and he pauses by to say hi and when I see him looking at me with those huge black marble eyes, I feel lucky that he let him be a part of my life.

 

This story was published in The Hindu on 26 Decemeber, 2014 [1]

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